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Tuesday, 15 November 1983
Page: 2658

Mr SCOTT —Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware of the attitude of the Aboriginal community to the transfer of Ayers Rock, particularly in respect of tourist access and enjoyment?

Mr HOLDING —I am aware of the attitude of the Aboriginal people in terms of their claims based upon a spiritual and religious attitude towards Ayers Rock. I am certain the shadow Minister is aware of it and I hope that the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory would be aware of it because these are claims that have been made to former Ministers of the Commonwealth Government and to the Government of the Northern Territory. I am certain that when the Chief Minister said, in July 1982, that it was the policy of his Government to give Ayers Rock back to the Aborigines he understood the nature of the claims that were being made by Aboriginal people.

I am bound to say that over the last 48 hours I have been concerned, as I am certain men of conscience would be concerned, about the way in which the claims of Aboriginal people have been subject to deliberate distortion and to malevolent misrepresentation by people who hope to make some kind of political capital out of misrepresenting the attitude of Aboriginal people on this issue. I was instructed by the Cabinet to open discussions with the Aboriginal owners.

Mr Howard —You are very sensitive.

Mr HOLDING —I am sensitive. I am sorry that the honourable gentleman lacks sensitivity on this issue. If the honourable gentleman wants to show his sensitivity he would begin well by shutting up and listening.

Mr Howard —That shows how paternalistic you are.

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —Order! The Minister will answer the question.

Mr HOLDING —This pack of boy scouts has enough decency to wear long trousers. Thank God for that. Because I was instructed by Cabinet to spell out the heads of agreement with Aboriginal people, I entered into discussions with Mr John Coldrey, the Director of Legal Services for the Central Land Council. He informed me that a meeting would be conducted today with members of the Pitjantjatjara Council and members of the Central Land Council and that they would discuss these issues.

As a result I have received a telex which sets out fully the attitudes and the hopes of Aboriginal people in respect of Ayers Rock and their perception of its role in their lives, and at the same time the way in which they believe it ought to be developed, both in terms of their perceived interests and the interests of all Australians. I will read that telex without comment because I believe it gives everybody an opportunity to understand the attitude of the Aboriginal people on this matter. It states:

The CLC and the Pitjantjatjara Council are extremely concerned that the enlightened gesture of the Commonwealth Government in granting Aboriginal people title to Uluru National Park has already been distorted-

Opposition members interjecting-

Mr HOLDING —Mr Acting Speaker, if these gentlemen do not want to keep quiet for me I suggest that they at least have enough regard for the written words of Aboriginal people to keep quiet. They are prepared to distort those words. Honourable members opposite should listen to them.

Opposition members interjecting-

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —Order! The Minister will continue his answer and the House will come to order.

Mr Lusher —This is an abuse of Question Time.

Mr Sinclair —This is a ridiculous answer; no wonder you are embarrassed.

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —Order! The Minister is entitled, and indeed has a responsibility, to answer the question. The House will come to order and hear him.

Mr HOLDING —The telex goes on:

. . . in granting Aboriginal people title to Uluru National Park has already been distorted by the NT Chief Minister Mr Everingham for perceived political advantage.

Before the facts are further muddied in the NT election campaign it is essential that the position of the traditional Aboriginal owners is clearly stated.

The Aboriginal people have always recognised the legitimate tourist interest in the national park.

They have always supported the concepts of leasing back the park to the Commonwealth.

They have consistently asserted that the park will always be available for the benefit of all Australians.

They have always supported a joint management scheme in which Aboriginal, conservationist and tourist interests would be represented.

They have no intention of unreasonably limiting access to Uluru National Park.

Basically for the visiting tourist it will be business as usual.

Any rare and limited restrictions necessary for ceremonial purposes are likely to be confined to those sites already registered as sacred by the NT Government' s own Sacred Sites Authority (and already subject to restrictions).

Such ceremonies should be respected as a vital part of traditional Aboriginal life.

The Aboriginal traditional owners believe that Aboriginal ownership and involvement in Uluru substantially enhances the commercial tourist potential of the park.

The Yulara project will not be affected by Aboriginal ownership of Uluru. The Aboriginal people have expressed no interest in seeking to operate motels within the national park.

Indeed, Aboriginal traditional owners welcome the Yulara project in that it locates tourists away from their local Mutitjulu community and thereby reduces the impact of thousands of tourists a year on their way of life.

It follows that the granting of title-

Mr Donald Cameron —Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order. Sir Billy Snedden would not have allowed the Minister to do what he is doing. My point of order is that in the old days Ministers were never allowed to read at the table as this Minister is doing.

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —Order! The point of order is not upheld and cannot be sustained by a reading of the Hansard. The Minister will endeavour to bring his answer to a close as soon as possible.

Mr HOLDING —The telex continued:

It follows that the granting of title to the Aboriginal traditional owners will not jeopardise investment in the Yulara operation.

The Hawke initiative is an excellent measure which recognises the long standing spiritual attachment of the Aboriginal people to this area whilst preserving the interests of tourists and conservationists in the park.

Mr Wilson —Mr Acting Speaker, I ask the Minister to table the document from which he was reading.

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —Is the Minister able to table the document?

Mr Holding —It is not a confidential document.

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —I ask the Minister whether he will table the document.

Mr Holding —I table the document.